Toronto is often compared to the other Great Lakes metropolis, Chicago.

Built in roughly the same era, and fronting major, northern bodies of water, Toronto recently surpassed Chicago to become the fourth largest city in North America.

I haven’t been to Chicago recently, and look forward to exploring the relationship between the two cities.

What stands out from afar, however, are the city’s nicknames. Chicago is the Windy City, but Toronto is not. The obvious difference is that Chicago is much more windy, but as they are both Great Lakes cities, I did not understand why.

Until my first night on the Toronto Island, that is.

The aural soundscape here is defined by a constant gush of wind. I went to the Gibraltar Point beach yesterday and was almost blown over. Directly fronting the open waters of Lake Ontario, Toronto Island protects the city’s harbour from rough waters and strong winds. Without the Toronto Island, Toronto would be less mild place, constantly pummelled by fierce winter winds.

I am beginning to understand the importance of the Toronto Islands to Toronto. Like a hand reaching out into the waters of Lake Ontario, the Islands cradle and nurture an otherwise undifferentiated stretch of Lake Ontario shoreline. Toronto Island seems to be at the genus of city, the why of Toronto.

But as Toronto Island continues to erode (partly due to the Leslie Street Spit blocking sand from the Scarborough Bluffs, which historically created the Island), the Toronto of the future might not have the protection the Island affords. Maybe then Toronto will become Windy City II.